Sora owner charged with federal wire fraud, sued in civil court
Nikki Lopez, the owner of Sora & Company downtown, has been charged in federal court with 14 counts of wire fraud.
Lopez is charged for making $611,665.22 in unauthorized payments from M&D Construction accounts to pay her personal credit card bills between January 2017 and through at least January 2020, according to the federal indictment filed Sept. 17.
If convicted, the penalty is up to 20 years in federal prison, $250,000 fine and three years supervised release, according to the indictment.
According to court record, a summons was issued to Lopez and an arraignment is set for Oct. 19 in Great Falls before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Johnston.
Lopez told The Electric that she’s not able to comment on the pending litigation, but that the store remains open and has a new manager.
According to the indictment, Lopez was an employee of M&D Construction beginning in 2013 and was hired for bookkeeping and accounting services. Her husband also worked for M&D, according to court documents.
Between January 2018 and the end of January 2020, Lopez charged more than $80,000 from Amazon; more than $115,000 on general retail purchases; more than $46,000 on clothing; more than $57,000 on travel; more than $34,000 on restaurants; more than $24,000 on beauty products; more than $12,000 on furniture and more than $7,000 on plastic surgery, according to the federal indictment.
To pay those expenses, she used her access to M&D financial accounts to direct payments from the company’s bank account to her personal credit card accounts, according to the indictment.
Lopez is also being civilly sued for the theft in District Court.
In that case, Lopez is named as is Sarge 2.0 LLC, which operates under the assumed business names of Sora, Sora and Company and Sora Boutique. According to the court documents, and Montana Secretary of State records, Lopez is the registered agent for Sarge 2.0.
The civil suit alleges that Lopez had used some or all of the $611,665.22 to purchase products and/or inventory for Sora, or to otherwise fund Sora.
According to the civil lawsuit, Lopez was an M&D employee through Dec. 25, 2019, but continued to work for M&D as an independent contractor from January through March 2020.
The civil lawsuit alleges that Lopez told her husband, an M&D employee, that she had taken the money and her husband told M&D’s owner.
Lopez retained counsel who told M&D that Lopez wanted to start paying the money back and as of April 2021, has payed $18,850 to reimburse M&D. The company has also been reimbursed $100,00 by its insurer, according to court documents. In late March or early April, Lopez cashed out her M&D retirement and received about $40,000 but as of April 12, 2021 had only paid M&D $500, according to the lawsuit.